Bezos to Donate $2 Billion for “Montessori Inspired” Preschools

(p. A10) When Jeff Bezos announced last week that he and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, would create and operate a national network of Montessori preschools, few were more surprised than Montessori organizations and leaders themselves.
In a statement released on Twitter, Mr. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and the wealthiest person in the world, said the preschools would be “in underserved communities.” He continued, “We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”
News of the initiative, called the Bezos Day One Fund, came with an eye-popping commitment: $2 billion, some of which will support organizations that help homeless families.
. . .
Montessori’s unique combination of freedom and rigidity — a famously “child-centered” practice with a host of rules and restrictions — can make its classrooms look drastically different from traditional ones.
Students span a three-year age range, say, between 3 and 5. Dressing up or talking about fairies or superheroes is not allowed. Instead of a play kitchen, there may be a real one, where students might pour their own juice into a glass cup, not a plastic one, so that they will learn the lesson that a glass can break if they are careless.
And every day, students get three-hour blocks of unscheduled, uninterrupted “work” time — the word “play” is not used — in which they are free to choose their activities, whether finger-painting or sorting wooden pegs.
. . .
With little else to parse, Montessori leaders pored over Mr. Bezos’ brief statement, which described the planned schools as “Montessori-inspired.” The term “Montessori” is not copyrighted, and any school can choose to describe itself as such.
. . .
Mr. Bezos attended a Montessori preschool in Albuquerque in the 1960s and is one of several tech industry leaders with personal ties to the method. The Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have attributed some of their success to their Montessori educations. Dr. Montessori’s reframing of child’s play as “work,” driven by the child’s choices and interests, is, in many ways, a natural fit for Silicon Valley’s culture of founder-driven entrepreneurship and innovation.

For the full story, see:

Dana Goldstein. “‘Money, but Few Details, In Bezos Montessori Plan.” The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 21, 2018, and has the title “‘Jeff Bezos Cites a Big Number, but Few Details, in Plan for Low-Income Montessori Preschools.”)

How Edison Brought Tears to the Eyes of Maria Montessori

(p. 221) Edison’s partial loss of hearing prevented him from listening to music in the same way as those with unimpaired hearing. A little item that appeared in a Schenectady, New York, newspaper in 1913 related the story that Edison supposedly told a friend about how he usually listened to recordings by placing one ear directly against the phonograph’s cabinet. But if he detected a sound too faint to hear in this fashion, Edison said, “I bite my teeth in the wood good and hard and then I get it good and strong.” The story would be confirmed decades later in (p. 222) Madeleine’s recollections of growing up. One day she came into the sitting room in which someone was playing the piano and a guest, Maria Montessori, was in tears, watching Edison listen the only way that he could, teeth biting the piano. “She thought it was pathetic,” Madeleine said, “I guess it was.”

Source:
Stross, Randall E. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007.

“Myth that Most C.E.O.’s Are Extroverts”

MerrimanDwightMongoDBcoFounder2013-12-07.jpg

“”It’s a myth that most C.E.O.’s are extroverts,” says Dwight Merriman, chairman and co-founder of MongoDB, an open-source document database. He has overcome his own earlier shyness, he says, and relies on enthusiasm for his work.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT interview quoted and cited below.

(p. B2) Q. I take it you’re an introvert.

A. I am.
Q. You were C.E.O. of MongoDB for five years before becoming chairman, and a big part of that job no doubt required you to spend a lot of time with people and give a lot of talks. How did you handle that?
A. I think 95 percent of the time you can get past that with just sheer brute force. I remember public-speaking class in college. I really didn’t want to do it. But today, when I give talks to 1,000 people, I’m not nervous at all. I think you get used to it. You just have to force yourself out of your comfort zone.
And it’s a myth that most C.E.O.’s are extroverts. Many are, but probably no more than the general population. I do what works for me, which is being enthusiastic and passionate about what we’re doing. You’ve just got to find what works for you.

For the full interview, see:
ADAM BRYANT. “CORNER OFFICE: Dwight Merriman; Being an Effective Leader Without Being an Extrovert.” The New York Times (Fri., November 1, 2013): B2.
(Note: bold and italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date October 31, 2013, and has the title “CORNER OFFICE; Dwight Merriman of MongoDB on Leading by Enthusiasm.”)

Google Surprised at Success of Chinese Cyberattack

(p. 268) Though the underlying issue of Google’s China pullout was censorship, it was ironic that a cyberattack had triggered the retreat. Google had believed that its computer science skills and savvy made it a leader in protecting its corporate information. With its blend of Montessori naiveté and hubris that had served it so well in other areas, the company felt it could do security better. Until the China incursion, it appeared to be succeeding.

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: italics in original.)

Google’s Bathrooms Showed Montessori Discipline

(p. 124) You could even see the company’s work/ play paradox in its bathrooms. In some of Google’s loos, even the toilets were toys: high-tech Japanese units with heated seats, cleansing water jets, and a control panel that looked as though it could run a space shuttle. But on the side of the stall–and, for men, at an eye-level wall placement at the urinals–was the work side of Google, a sheet of paper with a small lesson in improved coding. A typical “Testing on the Toilet” instructional dealt with the intricacies of load testing or C + + microbenchmarking. Not a second was wasted in fulfilling Google’s lofty–and work-intensive–mission.
It’s almost as if Larry and Sergey were thinking of Maria Montessori’s claim “Discipline must come through liberty…. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined. We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself.” (p. 125) Just as it was crucial to Montessori that nothing a teacher does destroy a child’s creative innocence, Brin and Page felt that Google’s leaders should not annihilate an engineer’s impulse to change the world by coding up some kind of moon shot.
“We designed Google,” Urs Hölzle says, “to be the kind of place where the kind of people we wanted to work here would work for free.”

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: ellipsis in original.)

Montessori Taught Larry Page and Sergey Brin to Always Ask Questions

(p. 122) “Their attitude is just like, ‘We’re Montessori kids,'” said Mayer. “We’ve been trained and programmed to question authority.”
Thus it wasn’t surprising to see that attitude as the foundation of Google’s culture. “Why aren’t there dogs at work?” asked Marissa, parroting the never-ending Nerdish Inquisition conducted by her bosses. “Why aren’t there toys at work? Why aren’t snacks free? Why? Why? Why?”
“I think there’s some truth to that,” says Larry Page, who spent his preschool and first elementary school years at Okemos Montessori Radmoor School in Michigan. “I’m always asking questions, and Sergey and I both have this.”
Brin wound up in Montessori almost by chance. When he was six, recently emigrated from the Soviet Union, the Paint Branch Montessori (p. 123) School in Adelphi, Maryland, was the closest private school. “We wanted to place Sergey in a private school to ease up his adaptation to the new life, new language, new friends,” wrote his mother, Eugenia Brin, in 2009. “We did not know much about the Montessori method, but it turned out to be rather crucial for Sergey’s development. It provided a basis for independent thinking and a hands-on approach to life.”
“Montessori really teaches you to do things kind of on your own at your own pace and schedule,” says Brin. “It was a pretty fun, playful environment– as is this.”

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: italics in original.)

Key to Google: “Both Larry and Sergey Were Montessori Kids”

(p. 121) [Marissa Mayer] conceded that to an outsider, Google’s new-business process might indeed look strange. Google spun out projects like buckshot, blasting a spray and using tools and measurements to see what it hit. And sometimes it did try ideas that seemed ill suited or just plain odd. Finally she burst out with her version of the corporate Rosebud. “You can’t understand Google,” she said, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.”
“Montessori” refers to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue what interested them.
(p. 122) “It’s really ingrained in their personalities,” she said. “To ask their own questions, do their own things. To disrespect authority. Do something because it makes sense, not because some authority figure told you. In Montessori school you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so. This is really baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking ‘Why should it be like that?’ It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: bracketed name added.)